His eccentric Aunt Augusta persuades retired bank manager Henry to abandon his dull life and embark upon a series of unexpected and hilarious adventures. Travelling with his aunt to Brighton, Paris, Istanbul and then across the world to South America, Henry encounters his aunt’s shady associates – pot-smoking hippies, war criminals, men from the CIA and art smugglers. Henry finds himself coming alive as he puts his former life behind him.
You will realise from the foregoing description that this production is a long way from the three-act, three-set format with which we are all so familiar. It is indeed a most ambitious production because there are some 30 different locations that cannot be represented in a realistic way. So the production has to suggest the locations to the audience, who need to imagine where the action is taking place. Throughout the action, changes to the layout of moving platforms, chairs, tables and other props are quietly made by a black-clad team so the audience is not distracted from the actors.
The play depends upon the monumental performances of John Sivewright, who is perfectly cast as Henry, and Sheila Dove, who portrays very well the vibrant character of Aunt Augusta; she enjoys recounting her many adventures and, particularly, relationships. These actors are on stage throughout almost the entire performance of just over two hours – most impressive. If I had a criticism, it would be that at times, their diction was not as clear as it might have been.
Other characters appear and re-appear in different scenarios – Rob Cording-Cook has two roles, one of which is the unlikely ‘partner’ of Aunt Augusta, but he is convincing in the portrayal of this bizarre relationship. Simon Jackson’s character, Visconti, is referred to throughout the action but he appears only in the final scenes where he does not disappoint given all that we have come to believe about Visconti. The representation of rides in a taxi driven by Colin Pile by various characters is particularly amusing. Colin Pile also plays a detective sergeant who creates moments of suspense in what is essentially a comedy throughout. Jenny Hughes has three roles, two of which are not very brainy police officers – shades of Much Ado earlier this year.
Director Phyllis Spencer has chosen to produce a most challenging play and the Wimborne Drama Productions team has risen magnificently to the challenge.